Sega is looking into concern around real-time strategy game Company of Heroes 2 after its Russian distributor pulled it from sale.
Russian distributor 1C-SoftClub (part of the company responsible for the IL-2 Sturmovik and Men of War series') announced it had stopped selling Relic's World War 2 RTS after complaints over the portrayal of the Soviets.
Sega, publisher of the game and owner of its developer, Relic Entertainment, told Eurogamer it is taking the issue "very seriously".
"Sega and Relic are aware of the press stories circulating concerning Company of Heroes 2 and the historical context of the game from a Russian perspective," a statement read.
"At this time we cannot offer any further comment, however we are taking this issue very seriously and are investigating these concerns thoroughly with all relevant partners."
A Change.org petition calling on Valve to pull the game from sale in CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] has, at the time of publication, over 17,000 signatures.
“The way the game developers see the conflict is disgusting,” reads the petition.
“Here in CIS we do believe that WW2 was won by the Allies, who do represent the best of human qualities like bravery, cunning, self-sacrificial courage and honesty. The game developers see the best of the USSR as an instantly evil thing. It's not like that at all."
While Relic is yet to comment directly on the issue, lead campaign designer Jasen Torres told Eurogamer in an interview published in 2012 that the developer had hoped to avoid the "sensitive issues" of the Eastern Front by focusing more on the soldiers on the ground than the politics of their leaders.
The Canadian developer had hoped to make Company of Heroes 2 as authentic as possible in its treatment of the brutal battle between the Soviets and the Nazis.
In the game's campaign the player assumes control of the Soviet Red Army, under the command of Communist dictator Joseph Stalin, as it defends against Hitler's German invasion. You then lead the counter attack towards Berlin.
As part of its development work members of the Canadian studio travelled to Russia on a research mission, getting a feel for real world weapons, vehicles and terrain. The designers have even included game mechanics based on some of the more shocking real-world tactics used. For example, throughout the campaign cut scenes show Soviet commanders ordering the slaughter of their own troops when they retreat - a directive sparked by Stalin's infamous Order 227.
This aspect of the game has been singled out by Russians for particular criticism.
"They're as cruel to each other in a way as they are to each other," game director Quinn Duffy told Eurogamer last year. "If you're as brutal to your own soldiers you can imagine how you're going to be to your enemy.
"War is not pretty, and we want to immerse the player at least for a little bit in the experience. We also need to be sensitive. There are long term repercussions of this war and so we want to present both sides of the story in as sensitive a way as possible.
"We want to be judged on the authenticity, the accuracy and the tone."